David Lat Profile picture
13 Oct, 32 tweets, 13 min read
1/ Assuming even the partial accuracy of what @aaronsibarium just wrote (apparently based in part on leaked audio), what's going on at Yale Law School is deeply disturbing.

2/ You don't need to be a Federalist Society fan to be troubled by what reportedly happened at YLS.

See, e.g., @mjs_DC—definitely no @FedSoc fan—who explains why handling such situations in this way is actually counterproductive:

3/ I am in no way blind to the Federalist Society's faults. After January 6, I wrote a few thousand words that were quite critical of @FedSoc.

4/ Despite the faults of the Federalist Society, I do not believe that mere membership in @FedSoc should be "triggering" or "oppressive" to law students.

5/ And I think that when law students disagree or get offended by other students, they should work it out amongst themselves, without the administration (absent extreme circumstances, e.g., harassment or threats).
6/ I believe this regardless of the politics of the parties involved. For example, Stanford Fed Soc shouldn't have complained about @n1n2w3; they should have just responded with humor or mockery of their own.
7/ As a @YaleLawSch alum, I just sent Dean @GerkenHeather an email "putting in a good word" for freedom of expression and intellectual diversity at the law school (which maybe one shouldn't have to do, but this is academia in 2021). Image
8/ I just received the following statement from Yale Law School (@YaleLawSch), which emphasizes YLS's "strong free speech protections" and states that no investigation was initiated (unlike that @StanfordLaw situation a few months ago): Image
9/ I'm listening to the audio now (via @aaronsibarium).

Around 7:15, diversity director Yaseen Eldik does acknowledge that student complaints were filed (but again, no investigation has been—or could be—launched).

10/ At 16:45, Eldik says "this isn't adjudicatory" and "isn't going beyond the [YLS] community."

But in the student's defense, I can understand why a stern talking-to by two administrators might FEEL adjudicatory (if we're going to let feelings rule).
11/ What I don't like about the audio is, well, how perfectly it reflects where we are in 2021. At times it sounds like a parody of political correctness.

People get offended by the smallest things these days. And I'm not sure if or how we can change that.
12/ Clearly some students were subjectively offended by the email. And I think the administrators were genuinely trying to explain to the sender why some took offense.

But I do wish people would be less quick to take offense these days.
13/ Some additional background.

One source of mine, a woman of color at Yale Law School, told me that the sender is a “really nice kid and a student rep—they tried to get him removed. The email was kinda dumb, but I think he was just trying to be funny.”
14/ Added my source about the sender of the Yale Law School email, “Plus he’s also one of the only actual, very visible Native American students here too.”

As you can tell from the audio (below), this fact definitely helped him.

15/ Yale Law School sources tell me Dean @GerkenHeather and other YLS administrators are getting flak from some students for NOT investigating or disciplining the sender of that @YaleLawSch email.

Wow, I do not want to be a university administrator in 2021.
16/ We come at this from different places, but I agree with @mjs_DC's ultimate conclusion:

"Law schools should not get involved over student disputes over protected speech. Doing so does not help the speaker, or their critics, or the school itself."
17/ And here is @mjs_DC's close:

"[F]ormal intervention only makes matters worse for all parties. Law students are adults. When their schools treat them like children, they are inviting nothing but pain."

18/ Here's my detailed, not-very-hot take on "Trap House-gate," the latest free-speech controversy to rock Yale Law School.

As I said earlier, I'm troubled by what went down at YLS. But the issue here is bigger than any one email.

19/ If you've been following the "trap house" email controversy at Yale Law School, this article by @aaronterr1 of @TheFIREorg is a must-read.

Terr interviews the sender of the email. The situation is worse than many of us realized.

20/ Here is a column from @RuthMarcus of the @washingtonpost about the Yale Law email controversy:

21/ For those of you who might have missed it but are following this thread, here's the latest development.

Other Yale Law School students are trying to get Trent Colbert ousted as a student government representative. Thread:

22/ In response to all the "what is up with these Yale law students" tweets:

I'm in touch with several YLS students, including students of color and Black students. Some of them strongly disagree with their classmates who are angry at Trent Colbert.
23/ I encourage Yale Law students who want to share their views to contact me.

I welcome hearing from all students at YLS, including students who were offended by the email or want Trent removed.

My email is at the top of this post: bit.ly/3DKcWl4
24/ Some readers have asked me: did you reach out to Yale BLSA for comment?

Yes. Yesterday I emailed the president/chair, inviting her to issue a statement or be interviewed by me. I haven't heard back yet, but I hope I will.
25/ Another source sent me this GQ article by @arcwrites, "Why the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Craze Quickly Morphed into Black Shaming."

I stand by the points in my original post. But I thank this reader for the helpful context.

26/ We all need to do a better job of listening to each other.

It might not change our bottom line (reading the GQ article didn't change mine), but it will help us to understand different points of view.
27/ Here is an excellent thread by @monicacbell, a member of the Yale Law School faculty, defending the YLS administration’s handling of the trap-house email incident. It’s thoughtful and fair-minded, and I think it would be hard to come up with better.
28/ Going back to my original article (linked in tweets 18 and 23 above), I’m less concerned about the specifics of this case, including the email, and more concerned about the process we use for resolving future disputes.
29/ I hope YLS will consider my idea of a meet-and-confer between students as a prerequisite before students can get administrative remedies (pun intended). Cf. an exhaustion requirement.
30/ It doesn’t even have to be an official requirement; it can simply be informal, applied in practice.

When the administration gets a complaint of offensive speech, they ask the complainant: what have you done to try and work this out already?
31/ Had the offended students gone out to pizza with Trent Colbert and shared points like the ones raised by @monicacbell in her thread, maybe they’d have gotten a sincere apology, in organic fashion (no pressure), and this all could have been avoided.
32/ I interviewed Trent Colbert, the 2L at Yale Law School who sent the email in question, as well as a friend of his who's a fellow @YaleLawSch student.


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More from @DavidLat

20 Oct
1/ Jeremy Rosen, a prominent (conservative) appellate lawyer, has this excellent piece in @TheAtlantic about John Eastman, the closest thing to a "brain trust" for Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

2/ Jeremy Rosen acknowledges—and criticizes—the attempts of some groups to "to silence anyone who thinks differently from them."

As he notes, these threats to free speech come from both the left AND the right—and deserve condemnation in both cases.
3/ Here is Jeremy Rosen's bottom line on John Eastman (with which I agree):
Read 6 tweets
19 Oct
1/ THREAD. ICYMI—it came out a while ago, I read it only recently—here's a fun article about "academic feeder judges" by Howard Wasserman for @DukeJudicature.

Which judges have the most former clerks who are now law professors?

2/ Howard Wasserman has a few different rankings.

Here are the top 20 academic feeder judges in the first ranking he does (Table 1 in his appendix), the judges who have sent the highest number of clerks into legal academia.
3/ As Howard Wasserman notes, "The political imbalance among feeder judges is striking."

You can see it in the top 20 judges, 15 of whom were appointed by Democratic presidents. And several of them are some of the leading liberals of the federal bench.
Read 4 tweets
19 Oct
1/ THREAD. @AaronSibarium of the @FreeBeacon, who last week broke the story of the Yale Law School email controversy, has this must-read follow-up about how the YLS community is responding.

2/ Two Yale Law School professors expressed displeasure with the initial statement released by YLS.

One of them is renowned corporate law scholar Roberta Romano (who Yale Law students and alums know is a badass—and I mean that as high praise):
3/ I tweeted some positive things yesterday about Marina Edwards's message, which seemed to sound some conciliatory notes.

Please see the new additions to the thread below. I've retracted those earlier comments of mine.

Read 16 tweets
18 Oct
1/ THREAD. I just left the Vaccine Center at @nyulangone, where I gave blood for a research study looking at #COVID19 immune responses.
2/ This blood draw is to establish a baseline reading before I get a #covid booster shot on 11/2.
3/ On 11/9, a week after the booster, they’ll take my blood again & see what’s changed.

The research could help figure out whether folks like me, who had #COVID19 and then got fully vaccinated (@pfizer for me), need boosters.
Read 5 tweets
17 Oct
1/ Here’s the statement about the Yale Law School email controversy that Marina Edwards, president of the Yale Black Law Students Association, posted to The Wall (the YLS listserv) earlier today.

I’m posting in two parts. This is Part I (four images).
2/ And here is Part II of the statement of Yale BLSA president Marina Edwards about the Yale Law email controversy (three images).
3/ I don’t agree with everything in Marina Edwards’s message, but I think it is a measured, thoughtful, and generally positive statement about this controversy.
Read 14 tweets
17 Oct
1/ Here's my interview with Trent Colbert, the Yale Law School student who sent the controversial "trap house" email, and a friend of his who's a fellow @YaleLawSch student.

2/ Colbert (the "t" at the end is silent):

"I was never aware of the word 'trap house' having any racial connotations. I thought of a 'trap house' as like a frat house, just without the frat. I had been calling our house the 'NALSA trap house' for months."
3/ Trent: "I’ve received many private messages of support. But nobody wants to be the next person targeted on GroupMe."

Trent's Friend: "There’s a very 'emperor’s new clothes' vibe—when someone says something is offensive, everyone else has to play along."
Read 5 tweets

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